Nan Spowart, Journalist, THE NATIONAL/
CHARISMATIC Senegalese singer Samba Sene is delighted one of his songs is included in a new cultural project promoting Scottish independence.
Songs for Scotland 2 has been launched to help keep culture as a central part of the independence drive and also to raise funds for a scholarship for young musicians, a subject close to Sene’s heart.
The singer has been based in Scotland for 17 years but aims to set up a “musical house” in Senegal for children whose parents cannot afford education.
“In Senegal a lot of kids don’t have access to technology or cannot go to school as their parents can’t afford books, so I want to set up something driven by music to support them,” he told the National.
Sene also supports Scottish independence and regrets not voting in the last referendum, but says he would definitely vote Yes if given another chance.
“I took a step back last time because I was not born in Scotland, but when I saw the result I wished I had voted. Maybe if people like me had voted the result would have been different. I learned from that that you can’t stay neutral if you have been living in a place for over 10 years.”
Yonambi, the song included in the new Songs for Scotland 2 album, is particularly appropriate as it is about a spiritual leader who carried on even though many people doubted him and said he wasn’t going to get anywhere.
“He did not reply to abuse but just focused on his mission until he accomplished it,” said Sene. “That is an example for me because some people from my own country don’t like how I try to mix my music – they want me to keep it pure Senegalese.
“However, they cannot defend their argument as music does not have a frontier. So I have refused to be distracted by them and I’m seeing results.”
Sene now leads Diwan, a diverse international collection of musicians from the UK, USA, New Zealand, Nigeria and Senegal, who share a global outlook and love of West African rhythms. Their music is an exuberant fusion of funky mbalax/Afrobeat grooves with undercurrents of ska and reggae; original songs with impassioned vocals, infectious guitar licks and irresistible dance beats.
Growing up in Dakar, surrounded by the best musical talent in the country, the young Sene had ambitions to be either a musician or a footballer and showed talent for both. But he was pushed towards a career in law or banking by his father.
Sene practised music in secret, working hard to develop his singing voice under the watchful eye of Baaba Maal and his band. Still shy about performing in public, it wasn’t until a broken leg in an accident on the football pitch put an end to football as a potential career that he made the decision to follow his dream and pursue a life in music.
His influences include Youssou N’Dour, whom he supported at recent Celtic Connections gig, Bob Marley, Van Morrison, Paul Simon, Alpha Blondy and Aswad.
A crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo is raising money for the Songs for Scotland 2 project, which will fund the album and help create an Alasdair Gray Scholarship Trust to support young musicians. A musical event at Òran Mór, beneath Gray’s own ceiling murals, is also planned.
Project sponsors include The National and Gray himself, who has provided both the artwork for the album cover of Native Musicians: Songs for Scotland 2 and signed, limited-edition, silkscreen prints as perks.